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In memory of a devoted mother

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve’s view


In memory of a devoted mother

AUDIENNE BLYTH looks into the name and history behind one of the state’s favourite recreational reserves teeming with native flora and fauna.

Mary Cairncross Park at Maleny receives thousands of visitors each year. Mostly they come away amazed by the diverse flora and fauna on view.

The park is named after Mary Thynne (nee Cairncross, 1848-1918). Her daughters Bessie, Mabel and Mary honoured their mother in this way.

Mary was married to the Hon. AJ Thynne who was prominent in Brisbane as a solicitor and politician. The family home was Thoonbah in Highgate Hill.

Bessie, whose name was always shortened from Elizabeth, developed a love of music and nature which she kept all her life. She was the force behind the saving of the rainforest and establishing the park.

After Mary Thynne passed away in 1918, her husband remarried. His new wife was Christine Corrie, the widow of a former Brisbane lord mayor.

About 1940, Bessie, Mabel and Mary, all unmarried, relocated from the family home in Brisbane to Maleny. Their ages at that time were 57, 66 and 62 years respectively. They chose to leave city life and live on a property purchased by their father in 1902.

His purchase of three properties in Maleny was an investment for the future. One block was 320 acres (almost 130 hectares), part of the 790 acres (about 320 hectares) which was the first selection in Maleny by Isaac Burgess in 1878.

Some selective logging had already been done by the time of the purchase. Many stories have been told of timber-getting and the great size of the trees in the Maleny rainforests. Magnificent trees of red cedar, beech, hoop and bunya pine – hundreds of years old – were harvested (on one of the present-day walks through the park, an enormous red cedar tree remains).

With land tax to pay, Bessie asked the then Landsborough Shire Council if it would like to purchase the block. Publicity later claimed the land had been a gift: a great gift for all humanity.

In October 1941, 100 acres (nearly 40.5 hectares) were transferred through a Deed of Trust by Bessie, Mabel and Mary Thynne. Other land was to follow.

Mabel was the first to pass away in 1943. Mary died in 1956 but Bessie continued to live in Maleny until her death in 1978, after being moved to a nursing home at aged 95.

At 91, Bessie was dismayed to find that a cottage on a property she had sold 10 years previously, in the belief that she could live out her days there, had been on-sold to a developer who required her to vacate. When she had given so much, it seemed a cruel blow. However, another home was found for her, but regrettably next to the housing estate development construction.

She was also dismayed to find the name, Mary Cairncross, was used for the estate as well as the avenue.

In the 1950s, the Rotary Club of Maleny in consultation with the council, set about maintaining the rainforest reserve. The Rotarians cut tracks, dug holes, built bridges, removed rubbish, made signs and created walkways. Members made the park their special project for the next 20 years. The council assisted with funding for amenities for the public.

On December 12, 1960, the then governor of Queensland Sir Henry Abel Smith officially opened Mary Cairncross Reserve, and Bessie was present among the dignitaries.

Today’s Mary Cairncross Park continues to be of priceless value, providing education, recreation and entertainment for the public.

Sunshine Coast Council has recently purchased large blocks nearby to be added to the park.

Source: Jeanette Nobes, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.

 Audienne Blyth is a member of the Nambour Historical Museum, open Wednesday to Friday, 1-4pm, and Saturday, 10am-3pm.

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